Dinner Remarks Sept. 17, 2016
I hate to break into all these interesting conversations but I think it's DEFINITELY time for a Sociable! (various guests call out SOCIABLE! and raise their glasses)
I have two questions for you and I need your answers to be loud and clear because these old ears don't hear so good any more.
1) Was this a good idea or what? (cheers, applause)
2) Are you happy to be here? (cheers, applause)
When Brian, Delores, Bonny and I began planning this reunion 14 months ago, our target group was the people who were members between 1965 and 1972. We estimated that we might get 30 to 40 people attending, mostly from the Victoria area--Brian even volunteered his lawn bowling clubhouse, maximum capacity 45, as the venue. Then Bon developed and sent out the attendance forms and the answers started flooding back in.
Boy, were we wrong.
We had to regroup and upscale and find new venues as we started to realize how badly you wanted to reconnect with fellow members--just to give you an idea of some of the attendee's distances:
No matter how far you came or how you got here, we're so happy you made it. I do want to mention the names of 4 members who are not here tonight. Bonny told you this morning that this whole reunion came about because Bob Ennis succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer in the spring of 2015. Unfortunately, in the 14 months it took to finalize plans for this weekend, cancer claimed 3 more members from the sixties: Gillian Senior, Lynn Bissell and Dave Phipps.
Cancer may have taken their bodies but they live on in our memories. Will you please join me in an toast to departed members?
To Gilly and Bob, Lynn and Dave-- good memories. (guests murmur and clink glasses)
I heard a new phrase recently and it kind of resonated with me; I'd like to share it with you: "You can't go back to the past but it sure is a nice place to visit sometimes."
That's what this weekend is about; pleasantly visiting our past. It was exactly 50 years ago this month that I signed up at U-Vic as a second year student and, while I don't remember much about the courses I took over the next 4 years, I sure remember a lot about the outdoors club.
Mainly, I remember the girls:
There were so many girls in the outdoors club that guys who weren't even in university started coming to our meetings -- isn't that right Brian? (laughter, cheers from Brian Morin's table)
I remember the parties:
And, of course, I remember the trips:
Can you imagine us getting across the U.S. border today looking the way we did back then? Impossible.
There were trips that could have ended in tragedy... but didn't, luckily. Throughout those years, the club kept growing and expanding. There were skits to perform and parade floats to decorate. There was the year we won the award for the most active club on campus and had to leave the awards dinner early to come back to campus for another skit (1969?). In fact, 1969 was a bit of a golden year for the club. In the spring, 4 young fools went down to the Provincial Parks Department and told them that, in exchange for ridiculously few dollars, we could single handedly re-open the West Coast Lifesaving Trail.... and with the help of Norm Willey the following year, we actually accomplished that. In June of '69, man landed on the moon. But the really important event of 1969 didn't happen until October 14. On that bright sunny weekend, a small army of outdoors club members, under the leadership of Barry Campbell, descended on an overgrown creek on the western edge of Victoria, and in a few hours, with minimal tools, utterly transformed about 200 yards of creek bank. Please stand up if you were part of the crew that day -- these boys and girls changed the club. There were mountains of cut blackberries and long weeds, piles of garbage pulled from the creek, including shopping carts -- it was amazing; I'd never seen anything like it; it was transformational. In a moment of insight I realized we were no longer just a drinking and dating club; we were a freakin' environmental phenomenon! (laughter, cheers from guests).
Ric Careless was a member by that time and the following year he led an expedition around the Nitinat Triangle; most of those who went returned safely 'though there may be a few members out there still. Ric went on to be the cofounder of the Canadian chapter of the Sierra Club and to help preserve millions of acres of parkland. If you want to see what determined conservation efforts can achieve, check out his website.
There were handfuls of members from the 60's who went on to careers (whether long or short) with Parks B.C. and Parks Canada and I can't help but feel their career choices were influenced by the time they spent with the Outdoors Club. I know that I wasn't the only person who found the club to be inspirational. I'd like to close by quoting from the biographic remarks one of our members, Brian Trueman, made about the club: "I loved going to U-Vic and the UVODC and in many ways it was the best time of my life. My fellow UVODC members opened my eyes to a totally different world from the one in which I had grown up."
We were young and free and golden in our ignorance. We did good work, folks. There were some great marriages that came out of the club and there were some even greater friendships that came from the club and still exist today. Thank you, friends, for joining me in a pleasant visit to the past.
by Laurie Creak
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